Statement by H.E. Mrs NYAMOSOR TUYA,
Minister for External Relations of Mongolia
at the Twenty-third Special Session of the
United Nations General Assembly,
New York, June 8, 2000
Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty-first Century
It is indeed a privilege for me to represent Mongolia at this very special session of the UNGA. This session is the first ever global conference on women’s rights and gender equality to be held in the 21st century. We must, therefore, seize this opportunity not only to reaffirm our commitment to the goal of gender equality, but also to agree on specific actions and initiatives to achieve measurable progress in all areas of women’s advancement as outlined in the Beijing Platform of Action.
The Beijing Platform of Action remains the quintessential document on women’s advancement and gender equality which draws on the wisdom and experience of the 20th century. The past century brought us a long way from emancipation to empowerment. Women live longer and healthier lives; are better schooled; became more economically active and legally literate. Most importantly, women’s rights have universally been recognized as full-fledged human rights. Important pillars for empowerment of women have been developed such as the International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, complemented recently by a unanimous adoption of its Optional Protocol. And I am pleased to announce that Mongolia will be very soon signing this Protocol and completing the ratification process within this year.
Despite all this, there is still a long way to go to make this world a better place for women to live. Inequalities still persist. Worldwide women continue to bear a disproportionate burden of poverty, violence, illiteracy, dislocation, poor nutrition and ill health. Women fall first victims to armed conflicts, HIV/AIDS and outrageous transnational crimes such as trafficking in persons. We are all only too well aware of all these challenges, but far too often action lags behind rhetoric. And I wish to associate myself with all those who spoke before me in favor of a better coordinated and forceful action to advance our agenda for women’s empowerment so vigorously outlined in the BPA. We share the view that here at this session we must come up with a strong action-oriented document drawing extensively on best practices in various areas in various parts of the world.
To enable women become equal collaborators in, and beneficiaries of, development, requires forging genuine partnerships between men and women, between public sector, civil society, and private sector, as well as between affluent and poor nations. In my own country, Mongolia, we are working to build these partnerships and promote responsible cooperation. We have enacted new legislation and revised some older acts to mainstream gender into policies and programs. The new Labour Code contains specific provisions prohibiting discrimination in workplace. Women’s equal rights in inheritance, land use, ownership of livestock and other property are provided for in Civil and Family Laws. Right after the Beijing conference the Government of Mongolia adopted a National Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women which works in tandem with the Unemployment Reduction Program and the National Poverty Alleviation Program (NPAP). The National Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women aims at creating equal opportunities for women and covers a number of interrelated areas such as women’s economic activities, poverty, health, education, rural women, family, women and decision-making, violence against women, human rights, environment, national machinery and mass media.
Poverty reduction has been - and still is - our priority. Thus a Women’s Development Fund was set up under the National Poverty Alleviation Program which focused on income generation, especially for female-headed households, rural health and NGO capacity building. Projects for female-headed households include pre-school strengthening components so that single mothers can engage into wage-earning activities. There are more than 40 women’s NGOs operating in Mongolia, and they are actively involved in the implementation of the NPAP, especially through organizing skills developing activities. The National Poverty Alleviation Program works in line with the government’s development strategy, and its local implementation is ensured by sub-programs at provincial levels.
The share of the private sector in Mongolia’s economy has risen from some 6 per cent ten years ago to more than 70 percent. Women make up half of the national workforce, and many more are now employed in the private sector. According to Mongolia’s Employers’ Federation, women own more than a quarter of private enterprises in Mongolia. The overall positive impact of these activities should be gauged not only in terms of better living standards for women engaged in business but also, and most importantly, in terms of renewed sense of self-reliance associated with expansion of individual initiative. We, therefore, believe that there should be continued effort in the field of human resources development, including women’s resources development, notably through vocational training, so that many more could benefit from opportunities offered by a market economy.
The challenges faced by women in my country include complex inter-related problems in the domains of poverty, unemployment, health, education, social protection and culture and behavior. Women tend to have less job security as workers and less access to information and credit as entrepreneurs. They are also more likely to be poor if they are heads of households. Social dislocation, in some cases, generates frustration which, at times, translates into crime and violence, including domestic violence. As a result of complacency and silence, alcohol abuse has become a major cause of family breakdown, domestic violence, street children and neglected children, prostitution and suicide among teenagers. We think it important to learn from the experiences of other countries and best practices in dealing with these issues in promoting zero tolerance with regard to violence against women and step up our action to address them more vigorously, including through prevention and education.
I wish to touch upon briefly on issues related to rural women. Rural women are of critical importance in agricultural production and in the rural economies of developing countries, including my own country. 45.1 per cent of the entire female population of Mongolia lives in rural areas, leading nomadic or semi-nomadic ways of life. The transition to a market economy has brought both opportunities and challenges to rural population, including women. The privatization of about 30 million heads of livestock instantly turned herdsmen and herdswomen into owners thus contributing to the improvement of their economic wealth. But on the other hand, poor resources continue impeding rural women’s and girls’ access to basic social services, such as primary healthcare and quality education. Poor infrastructure in rural areas deprives them of the access to modern information technology. We, therefore, believe it important to renew our commitment to the situation of rural women. A UN General Assembly resolution on rural women adopted at its 54th session - at the initiative of Mongolia - called for a comprehensive study on the situation of the challenges faced by rural women, including case-studies and experts meetings and workshops to determine, quantify and explain the impact of globalization and poverty on rural women. Mongolia will be actively working with the relevant entities of the United Nations and the fellow members to implement the provisions of this resolution.
Strong political will and resources are the sine qua non to women’s empowerment. I take the high-level participation at this session as a vivid demonstration of our political will to promote gender equality worldwide. But I believe that this will needs to be complemented by a commitment to provide resources in a more focused way. My delegation believes that there is ample room for more effective utilization of the available resources, both domestic and external, for women’s empowerment. According to a recent UNIFEM report on the Progress of World’s Women, 5 per cent only of national budgets of most countries are currently allocated to gender-specific activities. We have to allocate more, including through raising the awareness of decision-makers of all the potential benefits of engendering national and local budgets. The same can be applied to ODA. We are planning cooperative activities with UNIFEM in the area of financing of women’s empowerment.
Last month we held an interesting seminar in Mongolia supported by the UNDP and the SIDA on the emerging concept of human security. The debate here at this session echoes much of our discussion at this seminar. To me this means that empowering women and ensuring gender equality means working towards ensuring human security. Working all together, men and women, working for the benefit of all, for the benefit of our children and grandchildren.
Thank you very much.